A Reason to Smile: OU College of Dentistry, Dental Organizations Join Forces to Provide Veterans with Free Dental Care
Through the volunteer efforts of over 150 OU College of Dentistry students, residents, faculty and staff, as well as a number of area dentists and hygienists, 60 Oklahoma veterans were provided free dental care at a recent clinic held at the OU College of Dentistry.
The Oklahoma Dental Association (ODA) and the OU College of Dentistry joined forces with Dentists for the Disabled and Elderly in Need of Treatment (D-DENT), Eastern Oklahoma Donated Dental Services (EODDS) and other organizations from across the state to offer the veterans clinic on Saturday, March 27.
During the event, 118 dental and dental hygiene students participated, as well as oral surgery residents. Volunteers performed a wide array of procedures, ranging from routine cleanings and fillings to more complex procedures like crowns and extractions. In total, the estimated value of care provided during the clinic was $116,575.
“As a former Army Reserve member, I have made it my mission during my ODA presidency to plan a free dental care day for Oklahoma veterans,” said Dr. Paul Mullasseril, ODA president and OU College of Dentistry assistant dean for clinical and preclinical education. “Because of the pandemic we had to cut the number of patients we could treat, but that didn’t stop us from making a tremendous impact in these veterans’ lives. The hope is to continue this clinic into the future and treat even more veterans who desperately need dental treatment.”
With limited dental benefits provided to veterans, getting necessary oral health care can be difficult, and often, veterans tend to delay urgent needs. Regular dental appointments are essential in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.
“The college is proud of our partnership with the Oklahoma Dental Association and was thrilled to be able to join together to provide free dental care for veterans in need,” said Dr. Raymond A. Cohlmia, dean of the OU College of Dentistry. “These veterans have dedicated their lives to the service of our country, and now it’s our honor to serve them.”
John Corbett, a fourth-year Doctor of Dental Surgery student and member of the Air Force Reserve, was responsible for the three extraction clinics and oversaw the distribution of patients, logistics and movement of dental instruments in and out of the clinic.
“When Dr. Mullasseril presented me with an opportunity to help organize an event catering to the oral health needs of veterans, I couldn’t have been more excited,” Corbett said. “The patients that were treated are my colleagues, and to be able to apply my knowledge gained over countless hours of training at the OU College of Dentistry was a dream scenario.”
Lauren Jackson, a second-year dental hygiene student who participated in the clinic, described one of her meaningful experiences from the day.
“My last patient of the day is truly someone I will always remember,” Jackson explained. “This sweet man sat in my chair and told me he didn’t have the means to get help for a lot of things … He said he needed a lot of work done and didn’t think we would have the time to do everything we needed to do. But during his cleaning, he just kept repeating how thankful he was for me, and I kept thanking him back. Dr. Mullasseril got word of this patient and personally looked at his chart and said yes, we can get everything done for him today. With tears in his eyes, [the patient] called me an angel, and I’ve never seen a more genuine smile. After his hygiene appointment was over, the tears started flowing. It was in that moment I knew this is exactly where I’m meant to be: At OU, helping people smile.”
Corbett also noted that gratitude and appreciation were the running themes of the day, and the experience will stick with him for years to come.
“Every veteran left the event in better health than they arrived, and it gives me a great sense of pride to be a part of that,” he said. “Events like this display how our abilities as health care providers are gifts that we have a responsibility to share with those in need.”
The participating organizations thank Henry Schein Dental and the Oklahoma Dental Foundation for sponsoring the event and are looking forward to serving these heroes and watching this program grow in the years to come.
For more information about the academic programs offered at the OU College of Dentistry, visit dentistry.ouhsc.edu/Prospective-Students.
Article Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2021